Tuesday, December 15, 2020

In re A.G. (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 15, 2020)

Justice Currey begins this opinion in an obviously dramatic (and effective) fashion, saying:  "Columbine. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. Marjory Stoneman Douglas. These are but a few of a staggering number of American schools where fatal mass shootings have occurred. [These events are] [s]eared into the national consciousness . . . ."

Fair enough.  All that's true.  And given the facts of this case, you can see why he might elect to begin the opinion that way.

Though after reading the whole thing, one could have started the opinion a different way as well.  With something like: 

"Kids are stupid.  Remarkably stupid.  Stunningly, inexplicably, undeniably stupid.  Their frontal lobes aren't yet fully developed.  They lack impulse control.  Their ability to understand and/or evaluate future consequences is, at times, amazing.  Even intellectually 'smart' kids.  Here, a kid posts a Snapchat story that gets posted and potentially viewed by 60 or so random 'friends' with a caption that says 'Everybody go to school tomorrow. I'm taking gum' attached to a picture of a fake gun owned by one of his friends. A short while later, after a couple of people freak out, the kid realizes what he's done and posts a follow-up that says 'Everyone, it wasn’t real. I was xanned out.'  Even though he wasn't, in fact, taking Xanaz; that's just another idiotic thing he said.  After people report this to the police, the kid gets in trouble because everyone's freaking out about another potential Columbine.  The moron kid tries to explain that it's all just fake, stupid, unreal kid stuff that sometimes inexplicably happens, but no one cares at this point because it's a big-ticket item, and the kid gets sentenced to six months of probation in juvenile court on the grounds that his Snapchat story was a 'threat' to one of the teachers at the school (who wasn't actually on his story but who got sent the thing by a different freaked-out kid).  So that's what we have to deal with here."

Am I fine with getting this kid some therapy or education or something like that so he can more fully understand why people went crazy given what he said?  Sure.  For that reason, the fact that the kid gets put on probation for six months doesn't make me inordinately sad or angry or depressed.  Not a massive sentence and, in any event, maybe it'll do him some good.

But I simultaneously have a sense that things like this are sometimes much ado about nothing; or, more accurately, much ado about regular old adolescent stupidity that, sure, we gotta take seriously given the incredibly small probability of a high-consequence event, but which nonetheless (as here) usually just entails an absurd teenager concretely demonstrating the relative absence of myelin in their fat little heads.